Friday, October 29, 2010

Internationalization in JSF with UTF-8 encoded properties files

For my current employer I get paid to -among others of course- write blogs for the local development team. Those blogs are fortunately available online for everyone. So, here's just a link instead of a copypaste ;)

Internationalization in JSF with UTF-8 encoded properties files

I must admit that I miss the lack of syntax highlighting over there as well, we would need to look for a Wordpress plugin for that.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Disadvantages of JSF, a bit of history

This is a copy of my answer on stackoverflow.com.


JSF 2.0 disadvantages? Honestly, apart from the relative steep learning curve when you don't have a solid background knowledge about basic Web Development (HTML/CSS/JS, server side versus client side, etc) and the basic Java Servlet API (request/response/session, forwarding/redirecting, etc), no serious disadvantages comes to mind. JSF in its current release still need to get rid of the negative image as it was grown during the early ages. In the history there were indeed several serious disadvantages.

JSF 1.0 (March 2004)

This was the initial release. It was cluttered of bugs in both the core and performance areas you don't want to know about. Your webapplication didn't always work as you'd intuitively expect. You as developer would run hard away crying.

JSF 1.1 (May 2004)

This was the bugfix release. The performance was still not much improved. There was also one major disadvantage: you can't inline HTML in the JSF page flawlessly. All plain vanilla HTML get rendered before the JSF component tree. You need to wrap all plain vanilla in <f:verbatim> tags so that they get included in the JSF component tree. Although this was as per the specification, this has received a lot of critism.

JSF 1.2 (May 2006)

This was the first release of the new JSF development team lead by Ryan Lubke. The new team did a lot of great work. There were also changes in the spec. The major change was the improvement of the view handling. This not only fully detached JSF from JSP as view technology, but also allowed developers to inline plain vanilla HTML in the JSF page without hassling with <f:verbatim> tags. Another major focus of the new team was improving the performance. During the lifetime of the Sun JSF Reference Implementation 1.2 (which was codenamed Mojarra since build 1.2_08, around 2008), practically every build got shipped with (major) performance improvements next to the usual (minor) bugfixes.

The only serious disadvantage of JSF 1.x (including 1.2) is the lack of a scope in between the request and session scope, the so-called conversation scope. This forced developers to hassle with hidden input elements, unnecessary DB queries and/or abusing the session scope whenever one want to retain the initial model data in the subsequent request in order to successfully process validations, conversions, model changes and action invocations in the more complex webapplications. The pain could be softened by adopting a 3rd party library which retains the necessary data in the subsequent request like MyFaces Tomahawk <t:saveState> component, JBoss Seam conversation scope and MyFaces Orchestra conversation framework.

Another disadvantage is that JSF uses the colon : as ID separator character to ensure uniqueness of the HTML element id in the generated HTML output, especially when a component is reused more than once in the view (templating, iterating components, etc). Because this is an illegal character in CSS identifiers, the CSS developers would need to use the \ to escape the colon in CSS selectors, resulting in ugly and odd-looking selectors like #formId\:fieldId {} or even #formId\3A fieldId {}.

Also, JSF 1.x didn't ship with ajaxical facilities out of the box. Not really a technical disadvantage, but due to the Web 2.0 hype, it became a functional disadvantage. Exadel was early to introduce Ajax4jsf, which was thoroughly developed during the years and became the core part of JBoss RichFaces component library. Another component libraries were shipped with builtin ajaxical powers as well, the well known one being IceFaces.

About halfway the JSF 1.2 lifetime, a new XML based view technology was introduced: Facelets. This offered enormous advantages above JSP, especially in the area of templating.

JSF 2.0 (June 2009)

This was the second major release. There were a lot of technical and functional changes. JSP is replaced by Facelets as the default view technology and Facelets was expanded with capabilities to create custom components using pure XML (the so-called composite components). Ajaxical powers were introduced in flavor of the <f:ajax> component and like which has much similarities with Ajax4jsf. Annotations and convention-over-configuration enhancements were introduced to kill the verbose faces-config.xml file as much as possible. Also, the ID separator character : became configurable. All you need to do is to define it as init-param in web.xml with the name javax.faces.SEPARATOR_CHAR and ensuring that you aren't using the character yourself anywhere in client ID's, such as -.

Last but not least, a new scope was introduced, the view scope. It eliminated another major JSF 1.x disadvantage as described before. You just declare the bean @ViewScoped to enable the conversation scope without hassling all ways to retain the data in subsequent (conversational) requests. A @ViewScoped bean will live as long as you're subsequently submitting and navigating to the same view (independently of the opened browser tab/window!), either synchronously or asynchronously (ajaxical).

Although practically all disadvantages of JSF 1.x were eliminated, there are JSF 2.0 specific bugs which might become a showstopper. If you track the currently open JSF 2.x issues, you'll see that relatively a lot of them are related to the sometimes unintuitive behaviour of <ui:repeat> and the new partial state saving implementation, which in turn often only exposes in relatively complex views. Also, the @ViewScoped fails in tag handlers due to a chicken-egg issue in partial state saving. Most of those are however workaroundable. With the upcoming JSF 2.2, a lot of those issues should have been fixed.

With JSF 2.0, more nice-looking component libraries were born, among others PrimeFaces and OpenFaces.

Component based MVC vs Request based MVC

Some may opt that the major disadvantage of JSF is that it allows very little fine-grained control over the generated HTML/CSS/JS. That's not JSF's own, that's just because it's a component based MVC framework, not a request (action) based MVC framework. If a high degree of controlling the HTML/CSS/JS is your major requirement when considering a MVC framework, then you should already not be looking at a component based MVC framework, but at a request based MVC framework like Spring MVC. You only need to take into account that you've to write all that HTML/CSS/JS boilerplate yourself.

See also:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Using the MVC design pattern with JSP/Servlet

This is a copy of my answer on stackoverflow.


A bit decent web application consists of a mix of design patterns. I'll mention only the most important ones.


Model View Controller pattern

The core (architectural) design pattern you'd like to use is the Model-View-Controller pattern. The Controller is to be represented by a Servlet which (in)directly creates/uses a specific Model and View based on the request. The Model is to be represented by Javabean classes. This is often further dividable in Business Model which contains the actions (behaviour) and Data Model which contains the data (information). The View is to be represented by JSP files which have direct access to the (Data) Model by EL (Expression Language).

Then there are variations based on how actions and events are handled. The popular ones are:

  • Request (action) based MVC: this is the simplest to implement. The (Business) Model works directly with HttpServletRequest and HttpServletResponse objects. You have to gather, convert and validate the request parameters (mostly) yourself. The View can be represented by plain vanilla HTML/CSS/JS and it does not maintain state across requests. This is how among others Spring MVC, Struts and Stripes works.

  • Component based MVC: this is harder to implement. But you end up with a simpler model and view wherein all the "raw" Servlet API is abstracted completely away. You shouldn't have the need to gather, convert and validate the request parameters yourself. The Controller does this task and sets the gathered, converted and validated request parameters in the Model. All you need to do is to define action methods which works directly with the model properties. The View is represented by "components" in flavor of JSP taglibs or XML elements which in turn generates HTML/CSS/JS. The state of the View for the subsequent requests is maintained in the session. This is particularly helpful for server-side conversion, validation and value change events. This is how among others JSF, Wicket and Play! works.

As a side note, I warmly recommend to pick an existing framework rather than reinventing your own. Learning an existing and well-developed framework takes in long term less time than developing and maintaining a robust framework yourself. From the mentioned ones I personally recommend JSF 2.0.

In the below detailed explanation I'll restrict myself to request based MVC since that's easier to implement.


Front Controller pattern (Mediator pattern)

First, the Controller part should implement the Front Controller pattern (which is a specialized kind of Mediator pattern). It should consist of only a single servlet which provides a centralized entry point of all requests. It should create the Model based on information available by the request, such as the pathinfo or servletpath, the method and/or specific parameters. The Business Model is called Action in the below HttpServlet example.

protected void service(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws ServletException, IOException {
    try {
        Action action = ActionFactory.getAction(request);
        String view = action.execute(request, response);
        if (view.equals(request.getPathInfo().substring(1)) {
            request.getRequestDispatcher("/WEB-INF/" + view + ".jsp").forward(request, response);
        } else {
            response.sendRedirect(view); // We'd like to fire redirect in case of a view change as result of the action (PRG pattern).
        }
    } catch (Exception e) {
        throw new ServletException("Executing action failed.", e);
    }
}

Executing the action should return some identifier to locate the view. Simplest would be to use it as filename of the JSP. Map this servlet on a specific url-pattern in web.xml, e.g. /pages/*, *.do or even just *.html.

In case of prefix-patterns as for example /pages/* you could then invoke URL's like http://example.com/pages/register, http://example.com/pages/login, etc and provide /WEB-INF/register.jsp, /WEB-INF/login.jsp with the appropriate GET and POST actions. The parts register, login, etc are then available by request.getPathInfo() as in above example.

When you're using suffix-patterns like *.do, *.html, etc, then you could then invoke URL's like http://example.com/register.do, http://example.com/login.do, etc and you should change the code examples in this answer (also the ActionFactory) to extract the register and login parts by request.getServletPath() instead.


Strategy pattern

The Action should follow the Strategy pattern. It needs to be defined as an abstract/interface type which should do the work based on the passed-in arguments of the abstract method (this is the difference with the Command pattern, wherein the abstract/interface type should do the work based on the arguments which are been passed-in during the creation of the implementation).

public interface Action {
    public String execute(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws Exception;
}

You may want to make the Exception more specific with a custom exception like ActionException. It's just a basic kickoff example, the rest is all up to you.

Here's an example of a LoginAction which (as its name says) logs in the user. The User itself is in turn a Data Model. The View is aware of the presence of the User.

public class LoginAction implements Action {
    public String execute(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws Exception {
        String username = request.getParameter("username");
        String password = request.getParameter("password");
        User user = userDAO.find(username, password);
        if (user != null) {
            request.getSession().setAttribute("user", user); // Login user.
            return "home"; // Redirect to home page.
        } else {
            request.setAttribute("error", "Unknown username/password. Please retry."); // Store error message in request scope.
            return "login"; // Go back to redisplay login form with error.
        }
    }
}

Factory method pattern

The ActionFactory should follow the Factory method pattern. Basically, it should provide a creational method which returns a concrete implementation of an abstract/interface type. In this case, it should return an implementation of the Action interface based on the information provided by the request. For example, the method and pathinfo (the pathinfo is the part after the context and servlet path in the request URL, excluding the query string).

public static Action getAction(HttpServletRequest request) {
    return actions.get(request.getMethod() + request.getPathInfo());
}

The actions in turn should be some static/applicationwide Map<String, Action> which holds all known actions. It's up to you how to fill this map. Hardcoding:

actions.put("POST/register", new RegisterAction());
actions.put("POST/login", new LoginAction());
actions.put("GET/logout", new LogoutAction());
// ...

Or configurable based on a properties/XML configuration file in the classpath: (pseudo)

for (Entry entry : configuration) {
    actions.put(entry.getKey(), Class.forName(entry.getValue()).newInstance());
}

Or dynamically based on a scan in the classpath for classes implementing a certain interface and/or annotation: (pseudo)

for (ClassFile classFile : classpath) {
    if (classFile.isInstanceOf(Action.class)) {
       actions.put(classFile.getAnnotation("mapping"), classFile.newInstance());
    }
}

Keep in mind to create a "do nothing" Action for the case there's no mapping. Let it for example return directly the request.getPathInfo().substring(1) then.


Other patterns

Those were the important patterns so far.

To get a step further, you could use the Facade pattern to create a Context class which in turn wraps the request and response objects and offers several convenience methods delegating to the request and response objects and pass that as argument into the Action#execute() method instead. This adds an extra abstract layer to hide the raw Servlet API away. You should then basically end up with zero import javax.servlet.* declarations in every Action implementation. In JSF terms, this is what the FacesContext and ExternalContext classes are doing.

Then there's the State pattern for the case that you'd like to add an extra abstraction layer to split the tasks of gathering the request parameters, converting them, validating them, updating the model values and execute the actions. In JSF terms, this is what the LifeCycle is doing.

Then there's the Composite pattern for the case that you'd like to create a component based view which can be attached with the model and whose behaviour depends on the state of the request based lifecycle. In JSF terms, this is what the UIComponent represent.

This way you can evolve bit by bit towards a component based framework.


Related questions/answers

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Using HTML in JSF messages

A common question which keeps returning is "How to display HTML in <h:messages>?". One would logically think to add an escape="false" attribute to the component, like as you would do in a <h:outputText>. Unfortunately, this is not possible in the standard JSF implementation. The component and the renderer does officially not support this attribute. The <h:outputText> and <f:selectItem> are as far the only which supports the escape attribute. Your best bet is to homegrow a renderer which handles this.

First some background information: JSF by default uses ResponseWriter#writeText() to write the tag body, which escapes HTML by default. We'd like to let it use ResponseWriter#write() instead like as with <h:outputText escape="false" />.

So, we'd like to extend the MessageRenderer of the standard JSF implementation and override the encodeEnd() method accordingly. But since the MessageRenderer#encodeEnd() contains pretty a lot of code (~180 lines) which we prefer not to copypaste to just change one or two lines after all, it's a better idea to replace the ResponseWriter with a custom implementation with help of ResponseWriterWrapper wherein the writeText() method is been overriden to handle the escaping.

So, I ended up with this:

package com.example;

import java.io.IOException;

import javax.faces.component.UIComponent;
import javax.faces.context.FacesContext;
import javax.faces.context.ResponseWriter;
import javax.faces.context.ResponseWriterWrapper;
import javax.faces.render.FacesRenderer;

import com.sun.faces.renderkit.html_basic.MessagesRenderer;

@FacesRenderer(componentFamily="javax.faces.Messages", rendererType="javax.faces.Messages")
public class EscapableMessagesRenderer extends MessagesRenderer {

    @Override
    public void encodeEnd(FacesContext context, UIComponent component) throws IOException {
        final ResponseWriter originalResponseWriter = context.getResponseWriter();
        context.setResponseWriter(new ResponseWriterWrapper() {

            @Override
            public ResponseWriter getWrapped() {
                return originalResponseWriter;
            }

            @Override
            public void writeText(Object text, UIComponent component, String property)
                throws IOException
            {
                String string = String.valueOf(text);
                String escape = (String) component.getAttributes().get("escape");
                if (escape != null && !Boolean.valueOf(escape)) {
                    super.write(string);
                } else {
                    super.writeText(string, component, property);
                }
            }
        });

        super.encodeEnd(context, component);
        context.setResponseWriter(originalResponseWriter); // Restore original writer.
    }
}

But, in spite of the @FacesRenderer annotation, it get overriden by the default MessagesRenderer implementation. Since I suspect a bug here, I reported issue 1748. To get it to work anyway, we have to fall back to the faces-config.xml:


    <render-kit>
        <renderer>
            <component-family>javax.faces.Messages</component-family>
            <renderer-type>javax.faces.Messages</renderer-type>
            <renderer-class>com.example.EscapableMessagesRenderer</renderer-class>
        </renderer>
    </render-kit>

And it works! :) Use it as follows:


<h:messages escape="false" />

To do the same for <h:message>, just copy the above and replace anywhere "Messages" appears in the code (component family, renderer type and class names) by "Message".

The above is written with JSF 2.0 in mind, but it should also just work in JSF 1.2, you only have to remove the @FacesRenderer annotation. It will not work in JSF 1.1 or older since there's no ResponseWriter#writeText() method which takes an UIComponent as argument.

Update: a ready to use solution is available in OmniFaces as <o:messages>.

Monday, July 5, 2010

How to avoid Java code in JSP files?

This is a copy of my answer on stackoverflow.com.


The use of scriptlets (those <% %> things) in JSP is indeed highly discouraged since the birth of taglibs (like JSTL) and EL (Expression Language, those ${} things) over a decade ago. The major disadvantages of scriptlets are:

  1. Reusability: you can't reuse scriptlets.
  2. Replaceability: you can't make scriptlets abstract.
  3. OO-ability: you can't make use of inheritance/composition.
  4. Debuggability: if scriptlet throws an exception halfway, all you get is a blank page.
  5. Testability: scriptlets are not unit-testable.
  6. Maintainability: per saldo more time is needed to maintain mingled/cluttered/duplicated code logic.

Sun Oracle itself also recommends in the JSP coding conventions to avoid use of scriptlets whenever the same functionality is possible by (tag) classes. Here are several cites of relevance:

From JSP 1.2 Specification, it is highly recommended that the JSP Standard Tag Library (JSTL) be used in your web application to help reduce the need for JSP scriptlets in your pages. Pages that use JSTL are, in general, easier to read and maintain.

...

Where possible, avoid JSP scriptlets whenever tag libraries provide equivalent functionality. This makes pages easier to read and maintain, helps to separate business logic from presentation logic, and will make your pages easier to evolve into JSP 2.0-style pages (JSP 2.0 Specification supports but deemphasizes the use of scriptlets).

...

In the spirit of adopting the model-view-controller (MVC) design pattern to reduce coupling between the presentation tier from the business logic, JSP scriptlets should not be used for writing business logic. Rather, JSP scriptlets are used if necessary to transform data (also called "value objects") returned from processing the client's requests into a proper client-ready format. Even then, this would be better done with a front controller servlet or a custom tag.

How to replace scriptlets entirely depends on the sole purpose of the code/logic. More than often this code is to be placed in a fullworthy Java class.

  • If you want to invoke the same Java code on every request, less-or-more regardless of the requested page, e.g. checking if an user is logged in, then implement a filter and write code accordingly in doFilter() method. E.g.:

    public void doFilter(ServletRequest request, ServletResponse response, FilterChain chain) throws ServletException, IOException {
        if (((HttpServletRequest) request).getSession().getAttribute("user") == null) {
            ((HttpServletResponse) response).sendRedirect("login"); // Not logged in, redirect to login page.
        } else {
            chain.doFilter(request, response); // Logged in, just continue request.
        }
    }

    When mapped on an appropriate <url-pattern> covering the JSP pages of interest, then you don't need to copypaste the same piece of code over all JSP pages.


  • If you want to invoke some Java code to preprocess a request, e.g. preloading some list from a database to display in some table, if necessary based on some query parameters, then implement a servlet and write code accordingly in doGet() method. E.g.:

    protected void doGet(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws ServletException, IOException {
        try {
            List<Product> products = productService.list(); // Obtain all products.
            request.setAttribute("products", products); // Store products in request scope.
            request.getRequestDispatcher("/WEB-INF/products.jsp").forward(request, response); // Forward to JSP page to display them in a HTML table.
        } catch (SQLException e) {
            throw new ServletException("Retrieving products failed!", e);
        }
    }

    This way dealing with exceptions is easier. The DB is not accessed in the midst of JSP rendering, but far before the JSP is been displayed. You still have the possibility to change the response whenever the DB access throws an exception. In the above example, the default error 500 page will be displayed which you can anyway customize by an <error-page> in web.xml.


  • If you want to invoke some Java code to postprocess a request, e.g. processing a form submit, then implement a servlet and write code accordingly in doPost() method. E.g.:

    protected void doPost(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws ServletException, IOException {
        String username = request.getParameter("username");
        String password = request.getParameter("password");
        User user = userService.find(username, password);
    
        if (user != null) {
            request.getSession().setAttribute("user", user); // Login user.
            response.sendRedirect("home"); // Redirect to home page.
        } else {
            request.setAttribute("message", "Unknown username/password. Please retry."); // Store error message in request scope.
            request.getRequestDispatcher("/WEB-INF/login.jsp").forward(request, response); // Forward to JSP page to redisplay login form with error.
        }
    }

    This way dealing with different result page destinations is easier: redisplaying the form with validation errors in case of an error (in this particular example you can redisplay it using ${message} in EL), or just taking to the desired target page in case of success.


  • If you want to invoke some Java code to control the execution plan and/or the destination of the request and the response, then implement a servlet according the MVC's Front Controller Pattern. E.g.:

    protected void service(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws ServletException, IOException {
        try {
            Action action = ActionFactory.getAction(request);
            String view = action.execute(request, response);
    
            if (view.equals(request.getPathInfo().substring(1)) {
                request.getRequestDispatcher("/WEB-INF/" + view + ".jsp").forward(request, response);
            } else {
                response.sendRedirect(view);
            }
        } catch (Exception e) {
            throw new ServletException("Executing action failed.", e);
        }
    }

    Or just adopt a MVC framework like JSF, Spring MVC, Wicket, etc so that you end up with just a JSP/Facelets page and a Javabean class without the need for a custom servlet.


  • If you want to invoke some Java code to control the flow inside a JSP page, then you need to grab an (existing) flow control taglib like JSTL core. E.g. displaying List<Product> in a table:

    <%@ taglib uri="http://java.sun.com/jsp/jstl/core" prefix="c" %>
    ...
    <table>
        <c:forEach items="${products}" var="product">
            <tr>
                <td>${product.name}</td>
                <td>${product.description}</td>
                <td>${product.price}</td>
            </tr>
        </c:forEach>
    </table>

    With XML-style tags which fits nicely among all that HTML, the code is better readable (and thus better maintainable) than a bunch of scriptlets with various opening and closing braces ("Where the heck does this closing brace belong to?"). An easy aid is to configure your web application to throw an exception whenever scriptlets are still been used by adding the following piece to web.xml:

    <jsp-config>
        <jsp-property-group>
            <url-pattern>*.jsp</url-pattern>
            <scripting-invalid>true</scripting-invalid>
        </jsp-property-group>
    </jsp-config>

    In Facelets, the successor of JSP, which is part of the Java EE provided MVC framework JSF, it is already not possible to use scriptlets. This way you're automatically forced to do things "the right way".


  • If you want to invoke some Java code to access and display "backend" data inside a JSP page, then you need to use EL (Expression Language), those ${} things. E.g. redisplaying submitted input values:

    <input type="text" name="foo" value="${param.foo}" />

    The ${param.foo} displays the outcome of request.getParameter("foo").


  • If you want to invoke some utility Java code directly in the JSP page (typically public static methods), then you need to define them as EL functions. There's a standard functions taglib in JSTL, but you can also easily create functions yourself. Here's an example how JSTL fn:escapeXml is useful to prevent XSS attacks.

    <%@ taglib uri="http://java.sun.com/jsp/jstl/functions" prefix="fn" %>
    ...
    <input type="text" name="foo" value="${fn:escapeXml(param.foo)}" />

    Note that the XSS sensitivity is in no way specifically related to Java/JSP/JSTL/EL/whatever, this problem needs to be taken into account in every webapplication you develop. The problem of scriptlets is that it provides no way of builtin preventions, at least not using the standard Java API. JSP's successor Facelets has already implicit HTML escaping, so you don't need to worry about XSS holes in Facelets.

See also:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Servlet lifecycle and multithreading

This is a copy of my answer on stackoverflow.com.


ServletContext

When the servletcontainer (like Apache Tomcat) starts up, it will deploy and load all webapplications. When a webapplication get loaded, the servletcontainer will create the ServletContext once and keep in server's memory. The webapp's web.xml will be parsed and every Servlet, Filter and Listener found in web.xml will be created once and kept in server's memory as well. When the servletcontainer shuts down, it will unload all webapplications and the ServletContext and all Servlet, Filter and Listener instances will be trashed.

HttpServletRequest and HttpServletResponse

The servletcontainer is attached to a webserver which listens on HTTP requests on a certain port number, which is usually 80. When a client (user with a webbrowser) sends a HTTP request, the servletcontainer will create new HttpServletRequest and HttpServletResponse objects and pass it through the methods of the already-created Filter and Servlet instances whose url-pattern matches the request URL, all in the same thread.

The request object provides access to all information of the HTTP request, such as the request headers and the request body. The response object provides facility to control and send the HTTP response the way you want, such as setting headers and the body (usually with HTML content from a JSP file). When the HTTP response is committed and finished, then both the request and response objects will be trashed.

HttpSession

When a client visits the webapp for the first time and/or the HttpSession is to be obtained for the first time by request.getSession(), then the servletcontainer will create it, generate a long and unique ID (which you can get by session.getId()) and store it in server's memory. The servletcontainer will also set a Cookie in the HTTP response with JSESSIONID as cookie name and the unique session ID as cookie value.

As per the HTTP cookie specification (a contract a decent webbrowser and webserver has to adhere), the client (the webbrowser) is required to send this cookie back in the subsequent requests as long as the cookie is valid. Using a HTTP header checker tool like Firebug you can check them. The servletcontainer will determine every incoming HTTP request header for the presence of the cookie with the name JSESSIONID and use its value (the session ID) to get the associated HttpSession from server's memory.

The HttpSession lives until it has not been used for more than the <session-timeout> time, a setting you can specify in web.xml, which defaults to 30 minutes. So when the client doesn't visit the webapp anymore for over 30 minutes, then the servletcontainer will trash the session. Every subsequent request, even though with the cookie specified, will not have access to the same session anymore. The servletcontainer will create a new one.

On the other hand, the session cookie on the client side has a default lifetime which is as long as the browser instance is running. So when the client closes the browser instance (all tabs/windows), then the session will be trashed at the client side. In a new browser instance the cookie associated with the session won't be sent anymore. A new request.getSession() would return a brand new HttpSession and set a cookie with a brand new session ID.

In a nutshell

  • The ServletContext lives as long as the webapp lives. It's been shared among all requests in all sessions.
  • The HttpSession lives as long as the client is interacting with the webapp with the same browser instance and the session hasn't timed out at the server side yet. It's been shared among all requests in the same session.
  • The HttpServletRequest and HttpServletResponse lives as long as the client has sent it until the complete response (the webpage) is arrived. It is not being shared elsewhere.
  • Any Servlet, Filter and Listener lives as long as the webapp lives. They are being shared among all requests in all sessions.
  • Any attribute which you set in ServletContext, HttpServletRequest and HttpSession will live as long as the object in question lives.

Threadsafety

That said, your major concern is possibly threadsafety. You should now have learnt that Servlets and filters are shared among all requests. That's the nice thing of Java, it's multithreaded and different threads (read: HTTP requests) can make use of the same instance. It would otherwise have been too expensive to recreate it on every request.

But you should also realize that you should never assign any request or session scoped data as an instance variable of a servlet or filter. It will be shared among all other requests in other sessions. That's threadunsafe! The below example illustrates that:

public class MyServlet extends HttpServlet {

    private Object thisIsNOTThreadSafe;

    protected void doGet(HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws ServletException, IOException {
        Object thisIsThreadSafe;

        thisIsNOTThreadSafe = request.getParameter("foo"); // BAD!! Shared among all requests!
        thisIsThreadSafe = request.getParameter("foo"); // OK, this is thread safe.
    } 
}

See also:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The benefits and pitfalls of @ViewScoped

Introduction

To prepare for a new set of JSF 2.0 targeted articles (have patience, I'd like to wait for Eclipse Helios and Tomcat 7 to be finished), I've played intensively with JSF 2.0 and Facelets the last weeks (to be precise, with Mojarra 2.0.2). The new JSF 2.0 annotations and implicit navigation (the outcome will implicitly go to /outcomevalue.xhtml page) are great and very useful. No hassling with faces-config.xml anymore. It's awesome.

JSF 2.0 also introduces an important new scope and offers the possibility to define your own custom scopes. The new scope is the view scope. It lies between the existing and well-known request and session scopes in. You can put the managed bean in the view scope using the @ViewScoped annotation.

package com.example;

import java.io.Serializable;

import javax.faces.bean.ManagedBean;
import javax.faces.bean.ViewScoped;

@ManagedBean
@ViewScoped
public class Bean implements Serializable {

    // ...
    
}

Note that the bean needs to implement Serializable as it will be stored in the view map which is in turn stored in the session. Some servletcontainer configurations will namely store sessions on disk instead of in memory. This is also mandatory when you have configured JSF view state saving method to client instead of (default) server.

You'll probably recognize yourself in abusing the session scope for data which you would like to retain in the subsequent requests to avoid the expensive task of reloading it from the database on every request again and again, such as the datamodel for the <h:dataTable> in order to be able to retrieve the selected row. A major caveat is that the changes are reflected in every opened window/tab in the same session which leads to unintuitive webapplication behaviour and thus bad user experience. Tomahawk was early to introduce a solution for this in flavor of <t:saveState> and <t:dataTable preserveDataModel="true">. The first will store the given model value temporarily in the viewroot and set it back in the model during the restore view phase of the subsequent request. The second does that for the datatable's value. Hereafter JBoss Seam came with the Conversation Scope and Apache MyFaces Orchestra followed shortly. Both saves the bean state in the session among requests, identified by an extra request parameter.

You'll probably also recognize the issue of the <h:commandButton> or <h:commandLink> action not being fired because the rendered attribute of the component or one of its parents returns false during the form submit, while it was true during the initial request. You would need to fall back to the session scope or grab Tomahawk's <t:saveState> to fix it. How annoying!

The new view scope should solve exactly those issues. A @ViewScoped bean will live as long as you're submitting the form to the same view again and again. In other words, as long as when the action method(s) returns null or even void, the bean will be there in the next request. Once you navigate to a different view, then the bean will be trashed.

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Really simple CRUD

Here's a quick'n'dirty example in flavor of a really simple CRUD on a single page how you could take benefit of it in combination with a datatable.

package com.example;

import java.io.Serializable;
import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;

import javax.annotation.PostConstruct;
import javax.faces.bean.ManagedBean;
import javax.faces.bean.ViewScoped;
import javax.faces.model.DataModel;
import javax.faces.model.ListDataModel;

@ManagedBean
@ViewScoped
public class Bean implements Serializable {

    private List<Item> list;
    private transient DataModel<Item> model;
    private Item item = new Item();
    private boolean edit;

    @PostConstruct
    public void init() {
        // list = dao.list();
        // Actually, you should retrieve the list from DAO. This is just for demo.
        list = new ArrayList<Item>();
        list.add(new Item(1L, "item1"));
        list.add(new Item(2L, "item2"));
        list.add(new Item(3L, "item3"));
    }
    
    public void add() {
        // dao.create(item);
        // Actually, the DAO should already have set the ID from DB. This is just for demo.
        item.setId(list.isEmpty() ? 1 : list.get(list.size() - 1).getId() + 1);
        list.add(item);
        item = new Item(); // Reset placeholder.
    }

    public void edit() {
        item = model.getRowData();
        edit = true;
    }

    public void save() {
        // dao.update(item);
        item = new Item(); // Reset placeholder.
        edit = false;
    }

    public void delete() {
        // dao.delete(item);
        list.remove(model.getRowData());
    }

    public List<Item> getList() {
        return list;
    }

    public DataModel<Item> getModel() {
        if (model == null) {
            model = new ListDataModel<Item>(list);
        }

        return model;
    }

    public Item getItem() {
        return item;
    }

    public boolean isEdit() {
        return edit;
    }

    // Other getters/setters are actually unnecessary. Feel free to add them though.

}

Note: the outcommented dao.somemethod() lines are what you actually should do as well in real code. Also note that the DataModel is lazily instantiated in the getter, because it doesn't implement Serializable and it would otherwise be null after deserialization.

The Item class is just a simple model object, its code should be straightforward enough. A Serializable Javabean with two properties Long id and String value, a default constructor and a constructor filling both properties, a bunch of appropriate getters/setters, equals() and hashCode() overriden.

And now the view, it's Facelets, save it as crud.xhtml:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"
      xmlns:f="http://java.sun.com/jsf/core"
      xmlns:h="http://java.sun.com/jsf/html">
    <h:head>
        <title>Really simple CRUD</title>
    </h:head>
    <h:body>
        <h3>List items</h3>
        <h:form rendered="#{not empty bean.list}">
            <h:dataTable value="#{bean.model}" var="item">
                <h:column><f:facet name="header">ID</f:facet>#{item.id}</h:column>
                <h:column><f:facet name="header">Value</f:facet>#{item.value}</h:column>
                <h:column><h:commandButton value="edit" action="#{bean.edit}" /></h:column>
                <h:column><h:commandButton value="delete" action="#{bean.delete}" /></h:column>
            </h:dataTable>
        </h:form>
        <h:panelGroup rendered="#{empty bean.list}">
            <p>Table is empty! Please add new items.</p>
        </h:panelGroup>
        <h:panelGroup rendered="#{!bean.edit}">
            <h3>Add item</h3>
            <h:form>
                <p>Value: <h:inputText value="#{bean.item.value}" /></p>
                <p><h:commandButton value="add" action="#{bean.add}" /></p>
            </h:form>
        </h:panelGroup>
        <h:panelGroup rendered="#{bean.edit}">
            <h3>Edit item #{bean.item.id}</h3>
            <h:form>
                <p>Value: <h:inputText value="#{bean.item.value}" /></p>
                <p><h:commandButton value="save" action="#{bean.save}" /></p>
            </h:form>
        </h:panelGroup>
    </h:body>
</html>

Amazingly simple, isn't it? If you know or have read the well known Using Datatables article (it has been almost exactly 4 year ago when I wrote it for first! according to Google Analytics, that page alone has already been viewed almost 150,000 times since 1 September 2007), you'll realize how hacky and verbose it could/would be when doing it in the request scope alone with all of those bound <h:inputHidden> components and reloading the data in the action method or getter.

If you've studied the managed bean code closely, you'll also see that the javax.faces.model.DataModel is finally parameterized in JSF 2.0. No need for nasty casts on getRowData() anymore.

Really simple CRUD, now without DataModel!

If you're targeting a Servlet 3.0 / EL 2.2 capable container such as Tomcat 7, Glassfish 3, JBoss AS 6, etc, then it can be done even more simple! You can pass method arguments in EL! This allows you for passing the current row just straight into bean's action method. Here's a minor rewrite of the above quick'n'dirty example which utilizes EL 2.2 powers.

package com.example;

import java.io.Serializable;
import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;

import javax.annotation.PostConstruct;
import javax.faces.bean.ManagedBean;
import javax.faces.bean.ViewScoped;

@ManagedBean
@ViewScoped
public class Bean implements Serializable {

    private List<Item> list;
    private Item item = new Item();
    private boolean edit;

    @PostConstruct
    public void init() {
        // list = dao.list();
        // Actually, you should retrieve the list from DAO. This is just for demo.
        list = new ArrayList<Item>();
        list.add(new Item(1L, "item1"));
        list.add(new Item(2L, "item2"));
        list.add(new Item(3L, "item3"));
    }
    
    public void add() {
        // dao.create(item);
        // Actually, the DAO should already have set the ID from DB. This is just for demo.
        item.setId(list.isEmpty() ? 1 : list.get(list.size() - 1).getId() + 1);
        list.add(item);
        item = new Item(); // Reset placeholder.
    }

    public void edit(Item item) {
        this.item = item;
        edit = true;
    }

    public void save() {
        // dao.update(item);
        item = new Item(); // Reset placeholder.
        edit = false;
    }

    public void delete(Item item) {
        // dao.delete(item);
        list.remove(item);
    }

    public List<Item> getList() {
        return list;
    }

    public Item getItem() {
        return item;
    }

    public boolean isEdit() {
        return edit;
    }

    // Other getters/setters are actually unnecessary. Feel free to add them though.

}

And now the view:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"
      xmlns:f="http://java.sun.com/jsf/core"
      xmlns:h="http://java.sun.com/jsf/html">
    <h:head>
        <title>Really simple CRUD</title>
    </h:head>
    <h:body>
        <h3>List items</h3>
        <h:form rendered="#{not empty bean.list}">
            <h:dataTable value="#{bean.list}" var="item">
                <h:column><f:facet name="header">ID</f:facet>#{item.id}</h:column>
                <h:column><f:facet name="header">Value</f:facet>#{item.value}</h:column>
                <h:column><h:commandButton value="edit" action="#{bean.edit(item)}" /></h:column>
                <h:column><h:commandButton value="delete" action="#{bean.delete(item)}" /></h:column>
            </h:dataTable>
        </h:form>
        <h:panelGroup rendered="#{empty bean.list}">
            <p>Table is empty! Please add new items.</p>
        </h:panelGroup>
        <h:panelGroup rendered="#{!bean.edit}">
            <h3>Add item</h3>
            <h:form>
                <p>Value: <h:inputText value="#{bean.item.value}" /></p>
                <p><h:commandButton value="add" action="#{bean.add}" /></p>
            </h:form>
        </h:panelGroup>
        <h:panelGroup rendered="#{bean.edit}">
            <h3>Edit item #{bean.item.id}</h3>
            <h:form>
                <p>Value: <h:inputText value="#{bean.item.value}" /></p>
                <p><h:commandButton value="save" action="#{bean.save}" /></p>
            </h:form>
        </h:panelGroup>
    </h:body>
</html>

Note the action="#{bean.edit(item)}" and action="#{bean.delete(item)}". The current item is simply been passed as method argument! This allows us to get rid from DataModel altogether.

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Hey, there's "pitfalls" in the title?

Yes, well spotted. Check the following two questions on Stackoverflow.com:

In a nutshell: the @ViewScoped breaks when any UIComponent is bound to the bean using binding attribute or when using JSTL <c:forEach> or <c:if> tags in the view. In both cases the bean will behave like a request scoped one. The first one is in my opinion a pretty major bug, the second one is only an extra excuse to get rid of the whole JSTL stuff in Facelets.

This is related to JSF 2.0 issue 1492. Here's an extract of relevance:

This is a chicken/egg issue with partial state saving. The view is executed to populate the view *before* delta state is applied, so we see the behavior you've described.

At this point, I don't see a clear way to resolve this use case.

The workaround, if you must use view-scoped bindings would be setting javax.faces.PARTIAL_STATE_SAVING to false.

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(C) June 2010, BalusC